Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Lander’

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Granny’s Hot Sauce Spices Up the Tradition

15 May 2012

Wanted to share another gem from the hallways of this year’s Joe Val Bluegrass Festival. Here’s the new Boston-based group Granny’s Hot Sauce delivering a stark and powerful rendition of a fine old tune, “Foreign Lander”:

The lead singer, George Clements, along with bassist Louis Fram came upon “Foreign Lander” on Tim O’Brien’s “Fiddler’s Green” album, and the band’s version hews closely to O’Brien’s arrangement.

For a tune with so much maritime imagery, it’s ironic that the song laid its deepest roots— in this country at least— in landlocked Kentucky. As Jean Ritchie reported ten years back to the great traditional music site Mudcat Café, her father and his cousin both picked up the song while growing up in the Bluegrass State. Ritchie— who at 89 is today the doyenne of Appalachian folk music— collected the lyrics in the mid-1950’s in her memoir, Singing Family of the Cumberlands. Some years after that, a second cousin of Ritchie’s, Martha Hall, sang the song for an itinerant folklorist, which is where I suspect the tune’s discography begins.

Ritchie hypothesizes that the song originated in the British Isles, and simply judging from appearances, it’s hard to imagine otherwise. If anyone can shed light on those transatlantic beginnings, or on other variants of this sweet and mournful tune, drop us a line.

Yer Pal— Curly

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